A Ninja Girls Adventure
Maki, Saki, and Taki are new at the ninja game and often get into situations exceeding their experience level.
The three ninja reconvened at the edge of the bamboo field they had selected as a rendezvous point earlier.
"This looks like Hokaku's hideout," said the red ninja, Maki.
The yellow ninja, Saki, nodded. "I saw men on the east side of the property wearing his symbol. I didn't spot Princess Hitojichi, though."
"Nor did I," bemoaned the blue ninja, Taki. "Chances are, Hokaku is keeping her inside the hut."
Maki furrowed her brow. "Although loyal, Hokaku's foot soldiers tend to be poorly trained. Can you two try a frontal assault while I flank the hut from the rear? While you two are creating a diversion, I can drop some smoke pellets and flush them out, and then we can take on Hokaku directly."
Saki shrugged. "I don't see why not. My bladed fans and Taki's chain whip are more suited to group combat than your katana."
"That's what I was thinking," said Maki. "Give me five minutes to make my way behind the hut, and then get their attention."
"Oh, we'll do that," replied a grinning Taki.
Hokaku's men, about twenty in total, were getting restless when the two ninja approached the hut.
"So which of you wasn't mothered by a dog?" yelled Taki, twirling her whip.
One of the men pointed at them and shouted, "Those are two of Master Hoji's students! Get them!" The men split into two groups and rushed toward the two girls, who just smiled.
Upon hearing the guards roar into action, Maki padded toward the hut. One of the guards remained behind, but he didn't see Maki until her blade was buried in his throat. He fell to the ground, making only a quiet gurgling sound as he died.
Maki pulled her blade free and wiped off the man's blood on his tunic.
"That was hardly sporting."
Maki spun around toward the voice. It was a tall, powerfully-built man covered in tattoos. Shirtless, he held a strand of rope in each hand, and several more were tucked into his belt.
"Hokaku..." growled Maki. "Where is Princess Hitojichi?"
Hokaku smiled. "She is inside, away from the dangerous actions of you and your friends, feeling the loving embrace of my shibari."
Disgusted, Maki quickly reversed the grip on her katana's pommel and leaped toward Hokaku, intending to take the bastard's head off. With near-blinding speed, however, Hokaku sidestepped the slash, his left hand shooting forward.
Maki felt her right wrist go numb when a rope snaked around it, pinching the nerves. As the katana fell free, Hokaku pulled back, jerking Maki's feet into the air. Maki hit the ground hard, and she gasped as she tried to regain her breath. Before she could regain her senses, Hokaku had bound both of her wrists behind her back and was lashing more ropes around her torso.
He clamped his hand over her mouth and said, "You wanted to see the princess? Let me take you to her."
Saki and Taki were finishing up with the last of Hokaku's guards. When the last one fell, they looked at the hut, waiting for Maki's signal. Both looked at each other and realized something was wrong. They charged inside.
There was no sign of anyone in the main area, but they heard a strange noise coming from the back room. Brandishing their weapons, they tiptoed to the entryway and sprung inside.
While there were no threats, what they found surprised them nonetheless. Maki stood in the far corner, her hands behind her back and torso wrapped with rope. More rope, tied in a diamond mesh pattern ran from her waist down to her ankles. She was tethered into a standing position from the ceiling, and the noises they heard were Maki's curses through the knotted rag bound around her head.
Saki pulled out a small knife and cut Maki's gag free. "Are you okay? What happened?" she asked.
"Hokaku isn't just some lousy kidnapper," exclaimed Maki. "He moved so fast, I didn't have time to react!"
Taki was looking over Maki's intricate bondage. "You know," she mused, "it's actually quite beautiful what he did with the knots."
"Shut up and cut me loose!" exclaimed Maki.
"I was just saying..." replied Taki, as she started slicing the ropes binding Maki's legs. "Did you happen to see which direction he went?"
"Once he strung me up, he began wrapping the princess in a blanket and muttered something about Kenbito, which is two villages south of here," answered Maki. "It must be on the way to another one of his hideouts."
Once Maki was free and rubbed the circulation back into her limbs, she retrieved her katana from the back yard, and the trio headed south toward Kenbito.
Hokaku walked into the room he had rented for the night and deposited his "parcel" on the floor. He unwrapped the blanket, revealing the face of Princess Hitojichi. She scowled at him, yet remained silent, mostly due to the rags stuffed inside and tied around her mouth.
"This may not be the lodgings you're used to, princess," said Hokaku, "but they will suffice for the evening. Let's get you out of that hot blanket."
Hokaku unwrapped the blanket, revealing Hitojichi bound in a similar fashion to the way he'd left the meddling red ninja earlier. With a speed and precision unlike anything the princess had seen before, Hokaku untied the knots and removed all the ropes except the ones binding her wrists.
He unrolled a tatami mat that came with the room and laid Hitojichi on her stomach atop the mat. Hokaku crossed her ankles and lashed them together. Then he passed a rope between her arms and legs, looping it all together and threw it over the rafters. He tied the rope off, leaving the princess in a loose hogtie.
He untied the rag covering her mouth and pulled out the stuffing. Before she could get any words in, Hokaku wedged a piece of bamboo between her teeth and fished a rope through the bamboo, tying it behind her head.
"This will keep you in place for the time being with as minimal discomfort as I can allow," said Hokaku. "If you show any signs of resistance or begin making too much noise, I'm going to increase the discomfort level considerably. Do you understand?"
Hitojichi nodded, her pride the only thing holding back her tears.
"How fast could Hokaku really move with the princess slung over his shoulder?" asked Saki when they were a few kilometers away from Kenbito.
"He was certainly strong," answered Maki. "He picked me up and moved me around like I was nothing more than a bedroll."
"He's still just a man, though," Taki interjected. "Even with his strength and speed, he shouldn't be a match for all three of us, provided we stay together."
The three agreed and increased their pace.
Hokaku was rearranging his collection of rope when a knock interrupted his thoughts. He shot a warning glance at Hitojichi to reaffirm her compliance and moved to the door. He slid it open an inch and asked, "What is it?"
He recognized the yatai vendor from the village entrance. "Sir, you asked me to alert you if three ninja showed up."
Hokaku opened the door. "When did they arrive?" he asked.
"Only a few minutes ago," said the woman. "I had to take some yakitori off the grill so it wouldn't burn, but then I rushed here as quickly as I could without attracting attention."
"Are they heading this way?" Hokaku asked.
"They chose to visit the other inn first, but it's possible they could be coming here next, and... oh!"
Hokaku realized the vendor spotted the princess at the back of the room. He cleared his throat.
The woman lowered her eyes. "Apologies, sir. I didn't realize you purchased a 'companion' for the night."
"Ah... yes," replied Hokaku.
"She is very beautiful, sir," continued the woman. "She bears a striking resemblance to Princess Hitojichi, of all people."
"Please come in," gestured Hokaku, opening the door fully. "I would like to reward you for your time."
The woman nodded as she entered. "That is unnecessary, but thank you, sir."
"Think nothing of it," replied Hokaku, closing the door behind the woman.
"That was unfruitful," grumbled Saki as they left the inn.
"Kenbito isn't that large," replied Maki. "There's only one more inn, so he has to be there."
"Then let's hurry," insisted Taki. "Every moment we waste increases the chance of Hokaku escaping!"
The trio ducked into an alleyway between two rows of connected buildings when suddenly, a burst of smoke erupted at their feet, followed by two more.
"Look out it's... MMPH!" cried Maki.
"Maki, are you oka... MMPH!" yelled Taki.
"Where are you two... MMPH!" shouted Saki.
As the smoke cleared, the three found themselves helplessly staring up at the impressive form of Hokaku. They were bound back-to-back at the waist with their wrists bound behind them in a tight box tie and ropes encircling their torsos. Worse, they were seated on the ground with their legs spread and each girl's left knee bound to her neighbor's right. Each was also gagged with a rolled-up cloth tied between her teeth, preventing any effective communication.
"I was hoping you three would at least camp out for the night somewhere so I could get a good night's sleep," said Hokaku. "Instead, it seems the princess and I will be moving on."
Muffled complaints filled the alleyway.
"What I should do is stop by the sake house around the corner and tell the drunken patrons inside there are three helpless women with their legs spread nearby," taunted Hokaku. "Now stay out of my way!"
Hokaku strode out of the alley, leaving the captives to fend for themselves.
Hokaku returned to his room and began untying Hitojichi's hogtie.
"It looks like our overnight stay is being cut short, princess," he said. He picked up Hitojichi and laid her back inside the blanket. As he cocooned her in the blanket and secured it with more rope, he turned to the room's other occupant.
"Feel free to enjoy the room for the rest of the night," he said to the yakitori vendor. "I'm sure the owner will see you out in the morning."
A muffled whimper served as a response. The vendor couldn't offer much else due to having one rag stuffed in her mouth and another tied between her teeth. Standing in the corner of the room, her hands were bound over her head and more rope circled her body from her shoulders down to her ankles. Her eyes pleaded for release, but if Hokaku noticed, he didn't acknowledge it.
With nothing else to say, Hokaku hefted the bundled princess over his shoulder and took off into the night.
"Ngggh!" grunted Taki. "Can eivver of oo ged fwee?"
"Uh-uh... I can'd moof," answered Maki.
"Me neivver," bemoaned Taki, "bud dere'f a frowing knife in my fweeve. Can oo ged id, Magi?"
"Whad?" asked Maki.
"A knife," insisted Taki. "In my fweeve!"
"Oo haff a knife?" asked Maki. "Where if id?"
"In my fweeve!" Taki shoved her had at Maki's. "My fweeve!"
"Oh!" realized Maki, twisting her torso to reach into the sleeve of Taki's costume.
The knife was between Hokaku's ropes and Taki's elbow, and Maki had to strain with her fingers until she caught the tip of the handle. Gripping it with her index and middle fingers, she managed to pull it free on the fifth try.
"God id!" she cheered. "Now hold ftill so I gan gud or hand fwee."
Worried Hokaku might have followed through on his threat, the girls worked quickly to cut themselves loose. Once they were completely untied, they retrieved their weapons from where they had fallen in the melee.
"I can't believe how fast he was," observed Taki.
Maki nodded. "Now you realize what I was up against earlier."
"What now?" asked Saki.
"If he was planning on stopping for the night here," reasoned Maki, "then he must have a hideout in this direction. If he keeps heading south, though, he's going to have to go over the mountain range that shelters Kenbito."
"Which means his hideout is either on or on the other side of the mountain!" interrupted Saki.
"Right," agreed Maki. "With daylight approaching and having to carry the princess, he shouldn't be able to get the jump on us as easily."
"Then let's quit talking and catch the bastard!" said Taki.
All three nodded and raced toward the mountain.
Hokaku approached a clearing atop one of the mountain peaks and scanned the forest below. He caught a quick glimpse of red, yellow, and blue darting through the trees and realized his pursuers were still on his trail.
"Well, princess," he said to the bundle on his shoulder, "it seems your would-be rescuers are more resourceful than I originally thought." He paused for a moment, glancing at his surroundings. "I think this will serve as a good place to end this dogged pursuit once and for all."
Hokaku laid Hitojichi on the ground and unwrapped the blanket. He picked her back up and carried her to a lone tree and stood her up against it. Then he lashed a few ropes around her waist and ankles to secure her to the tree.
"...and now we wait," he said to his scowling captive.
Saki slid down from the tree where she had been scouting. "He's up on one of the peaks with Princess Hitojichi tied to a tree. It looks like he's waiting for us," she said.
"He's obviously planning something," replied Maki.
Saki shrugged. "It appears so. The clearing is surrounded on three sides by forest, and there's a cliff behind him."
"The good news is there's enough wind that his smoke bomb trick won't work again," added Taki.
"I think we need to attack him from three directions simultaneously," suggested Maki. "Even with his speed, he's going to have his back turned to at least one of us while dealing with one or more of the others."
Saki nodded. "That's as good a plan as any. If we hurry, it should take us five minutes to get to the clearing. If we can synchronize our timing, we should be able to rush him all at once."
The girls agreed and worked out their timing cadence. Once they were in sync, each took off in a different direction.
Taki's heart raced as she tried to maintain a quick pace, but count at the right tempo. She had opted for the far side of the clearing, meaning she had farther to travel than Maki and Saki. As she saw a break in the trees up ahead, she realized she had timed her run perfectly.
She reached into her right sleeve with her left hand to retrieve the throwing knife from earlier and readied her whip in her right hand. As she broke through the tree line, she came to an abrupt stop.
Hokaku stood proudly between Taki and the princess with a rope in each hand. Also behind him, however, lay Saki and Maki, with their arms bound tightly behind their backs, ropes encircling their legs, and gags in their mouths.
"I was wondering when you were going to show," boasted Hokaku. "When I found your friends in the woods, I figured you weren't far behind."
Taki let out a scream of rage and threw the knife at Hokaku's heart. Hokaku ducked and lunged forward. The knife flew over his head and embedded itself in the tree almost hitting Hitojichi, who squealed in shock.
The near-impalement of her quarry caused Taki to pause for a brief second which was all the time Hokaku needed to lash a rope over Taki's weapon hand, causing her to lose the whip.
In a heartbeat, Hokaku was behind her, pulling both of her wrists behind her back and up to her shoulder blades. Taki screamed as Hokaku lashed them together and wrapped her contorted arms to her torso. He shoved Taki to the ground and quickly bound her legs before gagging her with a rag.
"I realized I'd been too lenient on you three thus far," Hokaku boasted. "This is the infamous 'reverse prayer tie'. With your arms in this position you will be unable to escape or untie each other. Unless someone happens to wander into this clearing, you will be at the mercy of the elements and predators, assuming you don't die from thirst beforehand."
The three ninja squealed, realizing Hokaku was correct. None of them could move their arms at all, and the tension of the angle was all but paralyzing their hands.
Hokau began walking toward his first captive. "Now, princess, we can proceed to my other hideout uninterrupted and arrange for your ransom."
As Hokaku reached in to free the princess from the tree, Hitojichi swung her hand upward, wielding the knife Taki almost hit her with. She slashed Hokaku across the arm and face, causing him to stagger backward.
Taki quickly nodded at the other two. With all of her strength, Taki sumersaulted forward into a bounding leap catching Hokaku square in the chest with her feet. Maki, meanwhile, maneuvered behind Hokaku and raised her legs behind his knees causing him to trip. Saki rolled onto her back and used her legs to bounce Hokaku up and over the edge of the cliff.
A fading roar was the last thing they heard from Hokaku.
Hitojichi cut herself free and then knelt down to free the ninja.
"Despite nearly killing me with your errant throw, it worked out for the best," she said. "I wonder what your next plan of action would have been."
Saki, Maki, and Taki looked at each other sheepishly.
"We would have figured out something," Maki said.
"I see," replied Hitojichi in a low voice. "Nevertheless, take me back to my father, and we'll see what kind of reward he has for Master Hoji."
Not wanting to embarrass themselves any further, the ninja nodded and began their long trek back to the castle.
Hokaku hung by one arm from a rope attached to a rock outcropping. His other arm sagged, broken when he crashed into a protruding branch during his fall. The bounce did allow him to gain his bearings, and he'd managed to lash a rock to save himself from a certain death.
Once he got back on solid ground and healed, there would be three targets of an extremely vicious revenge plot. His mind raced at the possibilities.